NIAGARA, N.Y. — In an era when the college game keeps getting faster, Niagara’s Les Reaney slows things down, and that’s a good thing if you are a fan of the Purple Eagles.
The sophomore from Ceylon, Sask., scored two goals alongside fellow sophomore Ted Cook, who chipped in another two, leading Niagara to a 6-2 drubbing of Bemidji State.
“My game is hitting or getting hit,” Reaney said. “Tonight I got hit, got a little headache and then got into the game.
“We feed off each other,” Reaney said of linemates Sean Bentivoglio and Cook. “The chemistry between us is great. Benty digs the puck out and sends it. And Cookie is money around the net.”
Reaney’s style — picture a more physical Phil Esposito in helmet and cage — may seem a tad old-school. but it serves as the perfect foil to Niagara’s speedy wingers, who relish the opportunity to find the centerman lurking in the crevices of the opposition’s defense.
“Right now we’re not a team with a lot of competitive maturity,” Bemidji coach Tom Serratore said. “We don’t have a win this season, and they better start realizing that you have to bring it for 60 minutes. You play every game like it’s your last, and right now we aren’t getting it done.”
Niagara jumped out to an early lead on consecutive power-play goals.
Reaney deflected a Pat Oliveto shot from the point for the first tally. Cook then hunkered down low on the Bemidji net and put back a rebound of Chris Moran’s wrist shot for the Purple Eagle’s second goal.
Moments later, Egor Mironov drove out of the corner and surprised goalie Layne Sedevie with a backhander to push Niagara’s lead to 3-0.
Serratore had seen enough.
He yanked Sedevie in favor of Matt Climie and that’s when the gloves came off and the tempo in the game jumped.
Bemidji forward Shane Holman mugged Niagara goalie Juliano Pagliero after a whistle, but the Purple Eagles took the bait and were sent off short handed in the ruckus that ensued. Unfortunately for Bemidji, the Beavers failed to capitalize and later squandered another double minor on Niagara, as the first period drew to a close.
“For the first forty minutes, there isn’t a part of our game that I don’t think we were unhappy with,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. ” Our systems and energy game was there. Our power play was unbelievable. And when we had to kill penalties we did a good job. Other than taking a couple of bad penalties in the third period, there was nothing to complain about.”
Niagara picked right up in the second after Bentivoglio whirled a no-look crossing pass to Cook on the power play for his second of the evening. Then, Bentivoglio went coast-to-coast down the left wing and set up Reaney for a 5-0 Niagara lead, and the rout was on.
Since Bentivoglio rejoined Reaney and Cook on Niagara’s top line, the trio has been downright combustible in filling up the score sheet.
“At the beginning of the season, Sean and I requested to play together,” Reaney said. “But it didn’t start out that way. I think Coach wanted to spread out the scoring amongst the lines. I’m just glad to have the chance to play with him again.”
Kyle Rogers dug a tough puck out from behind the Bemidji net and found Scott Langdon for Niagara’s sixth goal to close out the second period
“It’s a great win for us tonight but if we come out flat tomorrow and lose then all of this will be forgotten,” Burkholder said.
Niagara’s defense corps played their most complete game to date, limiting the Beaver’s second chances and moving the puck out of the defensive zone. Pagliero swallowed many of Bemidji’s long range shots and did a good job of protecting the lead which had been a sore spot in Niagara’s net play at the start of the season
Luke Erickson broke Pagliero’s bid for a shutout on a 4-3 power play opportunity. With 46 seconds left, Blaine Jarvis tallied Bemidji’s second and final goal.
The Beavers get an opportunity to redeem themselves tomorrow as they face off against the Purple Eagles to conclude this early meeting of perennial CHA contenders.